Pebble Time Steel
Backed: $17 million and counting | Price: From $179
Pebble is the king of indie smartwatches. The polar opposite of crowd funded vapourware, we’d seen four different Pebble models before we got our hands on an Apple Watch for the first time.
The latest Pebble Time Steel is a bit special. Get this: it has a colour screen, but will last up to 10 days off a charge. Getting 1000 per cent the stamina of the Apple Watch is pretty attractive, no?
It doesn’t have a glorious OLED or LCD screen, and the e-paper display’s colours offer limited shades and saturation, but it is a step up from Pebble’s older wristwear.
It’s the same story with the design. The Steel version of the Pebble Time has a snazzy metal casing that’s a few notches prettier than the old Pebble Steel, but it’s still a bit bezel-tastic. Still, in some circles that slight lack of style cred will be outweighed by the sheer indie cool factor. How hipster-y are your friends?
There are no flashy heart rate sensor or GPS built, but Pebble has announced support for ‘smart’ bands that’ll pack those extra bits in. It won’t make them though. Instead Pebble has asked the community to do it for them.
The Pebble Steel is pretty much the ultimate indie challenger to the Apple Watch. It even has a pretty good app treasure trove too. The plan is to start shipping watches from May.
Backed: $350k | Price: $250
Want a smartwatch that doesn’t look like it belongs in a sci-fi movie from the 90s? The Nevo is the most minimalistic smartwatch we’ve seen yet. It even has more low-key smarts than the gorgeous Withings Activite.
From a glance, you’d think it was just a plain old watch, but it’s not. It does fitness and sleep tracking, alarms and notifications. It’ll also let you control your music, all while looking about as flashy as a piece of plain paper. It’s not one for show-offs, but we think the Nevo is a bit of a looker.
So, how does it do all this stuff without a screen? Like other smartwatches it connects to your phone over Bluetooth, and uses LEDs around the screen to tell you how close you are to reaching your daily activity quota.
It'll vibrate to let you know when there’s a new bit of phone fluff to check out with the coloured LEDs telling you exactly what sort of notification is there. It’s a pretty stealthy smart watch.
No daily battery charges here, either. It uses two batteries, one that just powers the watch and lasts for five years while the smart features battery lasts for six months. If you can wait until August a solar-charged version of the Nevo is coming out that means the battery will last forever (would it last through a grim UK winter, though?).
To sum up our reaction to the Nevo in one word: want.
Backed: $1.6M | Price: $199
And now for something completely different. The Ritot watch tip-toes its way on the border between ‘very cool’ and ‘totally naff’. It’s a smartwatch that projects its display across your hand. This means it can have the body of a smartband, but the features of a full-on smartwatch.
The Ritot can handle full notifications including those from Facebook as well as basic call and text updates. It’ll project in 20 colours too thanks to its DLP projector.
As it completely flattened its funding goal, fitness tracking is planned too. The real question here is whether you really want a smartwatch that splashes the time across the back of your hand in bright pink lettering. It’s, well… it’s pretty niche, isn’t it?
Despite using a projector, battery life is nowhere near as much an issue as it is with an Apple Watch. The Ritot will last for six days off a charge, or for a month if you switch the projector off. It comes with a charging base that seems to use wireless tech too: extra points for Ritot.
Heading straight for a pretty small audience of fans of everything a bit left-field, we don’t think there’ll be much of an app culture around the Ritot. But hey, it claims it’ll do a fair bit out of the box.
At this point Ritot says the bands will start shipping in April. And as it’s an IndieGoGo campaign you can still get involved.
Backed: $600k | Price: $199
Most smartwatches are desperately searching for a reason for a spot on your wrist. The little things scream: we’ll let you send pics of willies to your mates, we’ll let you see the time through 7,000 watch faces. Well, the Embrace isn’t about such fluffy stuff.
It’s concerned with an area of the Apple Watch that has yet to really develop: proper healthcare uses. ResearchKit offers great potential, but it’s software rather than hardware. The Embrace measures something called electrodermal activity (EDA). No, it’s nothing to do with detecting ghosts or other such nonsense. It measures the conductivity if your skin, which is a stress marker.
A big spike in EDA can be used alongside motion detectors to tell when someone is having an epileptic seizure. The Embrace then sends an alarm to nearby watch wearers to let them know the person needs help.
It’s not just about epilepsy sufferers, though. You can wear an Embrace to check out your body’s stress levels through the day, and even while you’re asleep.
No, it’s not going to challenge the Apple Watch for apps, games, or features, but that’s not what this one is about.
Backed: $149k | Price: From $129
The Kairos T-band is a smartwatch solution for the people who already have watches they love but don’t want to be left behind like a grandpa sadly sipping cold tea in a dusty old armchair while the family’s playing dino crazy golf. It’s a set of smartwatch bands, adding smart features to any old fashioned watch with a standard strap fixture.
There are three versions planned. There’s one with no screen, designed for real fitness fans: all three types have a heart rate sensor but this one also has a GSR sensor that measures temperature and sweat/conductivity. It still does notifications and has a vibrate function, but you’re not going to be reading any text messages on the thing.
The other two T-bands have screens: either a curved PMOLED or a basic LCD-style one that can only display basic text, for fitness tracking and the like. One burning question is exactly how it’ll feel to read things off a wrist display, but we’ll have to wait to find out.
Kairos also offers the complete package, with a traditional mechanical watch on offer too: although buying one of those really seems to miss the point of why you’d pick a T-band over an Apple Watch. Of the three we’re actually most interested in the one without a screen: better battery life, and it won’t give you wrist ache.